John La Barbera

On the Wild Side

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The son of a pianist and bassist and the brother of drummer Joe La Barbera and tenor saxophonist Pat La Barbera, John La Barbera was originally a trumpeter who became a skilled arranger/composer and an important educator. For this set, he utilizes a 16-piece orchestra that features such soloists as trumpeter Clay Jenkins (who is in top form), tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard, altoist Kim Richmond, pianist Bill Cunliffe, both of his siblings, and (on "Mayreh") guest altoist Bud Shank. The writing is conventional if advanced, but the material is superior and there are surprises along the way. Highlights include the ten-and-a-half-minute "Walk on the Wild Side Suite" (which composer Elmer Bernstein praised), Horace Silver's "Mayreh," a particularly inventive reworking of "Eleanor Rigby," and a tribute to Art Blakey ("Message from Art") composed by Joe La Barbera. This set is easily recommended to fans of modern big bands.

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